Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Gregg Easterbrook, of all people, has echoed--and in The New Republic, of all places--a standard, and extremely stupid, criticism routinely levied at Jews. Complaining about brutal violence in Hollywood movies, he writes,
Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.
Now, these two film executives' religion are obviously staggeringly irrelevant to the topic at hand. Why not their race? Their sex? Their belly button orientation? The first part of Easterbrook's entirely vacuous argument makes equal sense--that is, none at all--if any of these categories are used in place of faith. (Yes, there are awful people with "outies", but does that excuse the behavior of these "innies"?)

But the real peak of Easterbrook's illogic is his reference to "[r]ecent European History" as an argument against Jews "glorifying the killing of the helpless". In fact, the only inference that Jews in particular are better placed than Gentiles to draw from the Holocaust, by virtue of their experience of suffering, is the practical observation that "glorifying the killing of the helpless" is, all things considered, a lot safer than failing to do so. And presumably that's not the lesson Easterbrook has in mind.

There are also a great many more morally salutary lessons to be drawn from the Holocaust, of course--but these are not lessons that Jews are particularly well-placed to receive, or needful of receiving. (One never hears, for example, assertions that the Palestinian Arabs' history of collective misfortune should have taught them the horrors of militant nationalism.) On the contrary, it is the decendants of 20th-century Europe's Gentile brutalizers of Jews, rather than Jews themselves, who stand to learn the most from the negative example of their ancestors. After all, if there's no such a thing as a cultural propensity towards some kind of behavior--say, racist violence--then Jews have no more or less reason to worry about emulating their ancestors' murderers than anybody else. And if such cultural propensities do exist, then why would one expect to find dangerous ones in the cultures of the victims of past atrocities, rather than in those of the perpetrators?

I won't waste any time discussing the radioactive a-S-word, but for insulting irrationality alone, Easterbrook deserves all the opprobrium Meryl Yourish and Roger Simon can throw at him.

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